How can we, as wine consumers, support environmental change in the wine industry? What is proactive farming as it relates to growing vines for wine? Does wine tourism have a positive or negative impact on the environment?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with sustainability expert Anna Brittain.
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- Why is good soil health foundational to vineyards, both from the wine and sustainability perspectives?
- What is proactive farming?
- How can the wine industry increase its emphasis on social justice and diversity and inclusion?
- Why do climate action and regenerative agriculture make the ultimate umbrella for sustainability efforts in the wine industry?
- What is the environmental impact of wine tourism?
- What can we do as consumers to advocate for or induce change in the wine industry?
- Are there commonalities between different wine regions and the climate challenges they face?
- What is Domaine Carneros doing differently as a dedicated sustainability leader?
- What does Anna love about Domaine Carneros Taittinger and what foods would it be best paired with?
- Which breakfast foods could you pair with the classic St. Supéry Cabernet Sauvignon?
- Why does Anna believe we need to focus on improving quality and sustainable practices in the wine industry rather than expanding?
- What are Anna’s favourite childhood foods to pair with wine?
- What is Anna’s favourite wine book?
- Why would Anna love to share a glass of wine with Brené Brown?
- Why is it crucial to take action on climate change in the here and now?
- Anna has some concrete steps for how we, as wine consumers, support environmental change in the wine industry. Every bit helps, and the need is urgent. We all have purchasing power – we vote with our dollars, and they send strong signals to the industry to advocate for change.
- I found her concept of proactive farming as it relates to growing vines for wine fascinating.
- She also has an interesting take on wine tourism’s impact on the environment.
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The more people feel cared for, the more dedicated they are to a successful business. - Anna Brittain Click to tweet
We have to be thinking comprehensively to make change at the scale of the challenge that we’re up against. - Anna Brittain Click to tweet
About Anna Brittain
Anna Brittain has worked locally, nationally and internationally on environmental management and policy with organizations ranging from the environmental economics think tank Resources for the Future in Washington, DC to the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Hanoi, Vietnam. She has spent over 12 years facilitating and growing sustainability in the wine industry, with an expertise in communications and certification standards. Anna has served as a lead sustainability consultant with Ontario Craft Wineries, Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia, Crimson Wine Group, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, and individual wineries including Benziger Family Winery and Seghesio Family Vineyards. Voted Most Intriguing Environmentalist, she has helped lead the growth of the Napa Green program since 2015, and stepped into the position of Executive Director of the now independent non-profit in fall 2019. Anna has a Master’s of Environmental Science & Management from the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara and a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies from Williams College.
- Connect with Anna Brittain
- Wines We Tasted:
- Paul Dolan’s Book | True to Our Roots
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 258: Why Sustainable Winegrowing Matters with Anna Brittain of Napa Green
- Upcoming Launch Events for Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much
- Virtual Online Wine Tasting – Thursday, November 9th at 7 pm
- Treat yourself and your friends to a live online wine tasting and inspirational conversation between Menna Riley and yours truly about my powerful new memoir. All you need to do to join this private online party is purchase wine from one (or more) of the following top-notch wineries:
- Diary of a Book Launch: An Insider Peek from Idea to Publication
- Wine Witch on Fire Free Companion Guide for Book Clubs
- My Books:
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 17: Organic and Biodynamic Wine with Thomas Bachelder
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
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Anna Brittain (00:00):
Visiting the wineries that are really invested in sustainability and climate action and are shipping lighter bottles in greener packaging back to your house. It’s a huge element of so many economies and of many wine regions, and so we do need it. And that special connection of sitting down with someone and talking about how this product was made and helping them think then about where did all my other products come from and how were all of those made, I think is valuable. It’s something I struggle with because I love travel, but it does have a high impact in terms of our personal footprint. So we have to think carefully about it.
Natalie MacLean (00:36):
Is there anything else we can do as wine consumers to advocate or support change in the wine industry?
Anna Brittain (00:42):
Use your purchasing power when it sends signals. We have seen examples where people talk about those practices and the sales go up 20% of that wine.
Natalie MacLean (00:58):
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean, and each week I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started.
Welcome to episode 259. How can we as wine consumers support environmental change in the wine industry? What is proactive farming as it relates to growing vines for wine? And does wine tourism have a positive or negative impact on the environment? In today’s episode, you’ll hear the stories and tips that answer those questions in Part Two of our chat with Anna Brittain, the Executive Director of the Napa Green Program. You don’t have to have listened to Part One from last week first, but I hope you’ll go back to it if you missed it after you finish this one.
Before we dive in, I’d like to share a reader review of my new book Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much. This one is from Christie Casper in Calgary, Alberta.
“I’m a big fan of the show, The Social, on CTV. One frequent guest is wine expert, Natalie MacLean. When I heard about her memoir, it sounded like a unique story of resilience and strength, and I knew I needed to read it. The memoir focuses primarily on a particular tough time in Natalie’s life and career when she was blindsided by divorce and experienced online defamation that threatened her career. I wasn’t quite sure how the witch aspect of the title would fit into the story, but Natalie drew some really interesting parallels between the witches of years past and how women are still mistreated in modern times and specifically in her industry In fact, I really enjoyed the historical, literary and scientific references that Natalie Pepper’s throughout the book, they’re apt and brought a real richness to it. They made it a full-bodied experience, if you will. I really enjoyed this memoir and a glimpse into this industry that I knew little about. Natalie’s story is inspiring.” Thank you, Christie.
If you’ve read the book or are reading it, I’d love to hear from you at [email protected]. If you haven’t got your copy yet and would like to support it and this podcast that I do on a volunteer basis, please order it from any online book retailer no matter where you live. Every little bit helps spread its message of hope, justice, and resilience. I’ll put a link in the show notes to all the retailers worldwide at nataliemclean.com/259 Okay, on with the show.
How about pillar number four?
Anna Brittain (04:14):
So this one is so critical. The soil health and proactive farming, as we call it. And I was already speaking to this, but this is things like cover crops and adding compost and reducing tillage, reducing the tractor passes in the vineyard, and really having a lot of diversity, having trees and plants that are good for beneficial birds, the insects you don’t want, and cover crops in the vine rows that help attract the insects that get rid of the things that you don’t want out there. And really working in concert with nature and all of the benefits that come from soil health. I mean, this is the foundation really. 90% of the brain of a vine is underground. It’s happening down in that soil. And so as we increase soil health, we increase water retention, we increase nutrient retention, we increase plant delivery of water and nutrients, makes it more resilience to drought, to high heat days, which we’re seeing a huge increase in almost all wine regions of the world. And so it’s all of these huge benefits that then translate into the quality, this incredible wine that so many people enjoy. But again, as I was mentioning, also all of those things store more carbon in the soil. So it’s drawing down this carbon.
Natalie MacLean (05:34):
And what is that process without getting too scientific? How are these things storing carbon? Are they taking it out of the air and putting it in the ground somehow? Are they metabolizing it? Is the microbes or what is it that’s storing carbon? How is it stored?
Anna Brittain (05:48):
The more that there’s that diversity and the more active microbes. So this is getting a little technical, but think of the fun little microbes down there in the soil. The more they are drawing in breathing in carbon. Carbon, there’s a cycle there of breathing in and breathing out. So set the ground and the plants are breathing, we all know that, through photosynthesis, but the more that you’re adding this compost, this richness, these cover crops that are adding nitrogen and phosphorus and all these nutrients to the soil. The more you’re keeping that there – So you’re not tilling it and getting rid of it really regularly – the more it’s breathing in and keeping that carbon in the soil. And carbon is actually a foundation of soil health. So the more soil organic matter you have, as we call it, carbon is like the crux of all of that.
So it’s that piece where it’s like, oh, this is awesome. I can help store carbon in the soil and actually this makes my vineyard or my farm system so much better. So it’s this just tremendous win-win win. And so that’s what we’re working with our members to expand those cover crops, to put in that compost, to not do as many passes, to switch over to an electric tractor now if you can. So when you are doing those passes, there’s fewer emissions. And to plant other cover crops for pollinators and bees and monarch butterflies, things we don’t need to make our grapes, but we have a system there that can also be a great habitat for those animals and all those pieces. Just also caring for the forests and proactively managing the forest is another element. We work with a lot of our members on who have forested lands, and that’s very critical, obviously for the fires. We’ve had three mega fires in the past six, seven years. So that proactive forest management makes healthier forests that can better withstand fires and then store more carbon. You see a theme here?
Natalie MacLean (07:37):
Anna Brittain (07:38):
So we’re always working on that with our members.
Natalie MacLean (07:41):
And tilling, the tractor turning up the soil, is the opposite because, I don’t know I’m guessing here, it’s killing the microbes. It’s breaking up the plant material, and it’s just releasing all that carbon into the air.
Anna Brittain (07:52):
Well, yeah. And I mean tilling, well, it can compact the soil. It can depending what you’re doing, it can really kind of dice up the soil. So yeah, be exposing those microbes to the air and reducing that microbial load in the soil. It can be then taking out the cover crops and the process of taking out those weeds, which is a human construct
So yeah, I mean, we don’t ask people to go no till – kind of a pretty hard one for a lot of people still – but we do really work with people to reduce that tillage. And you really just want to keep living roots in the ground, living systems in the ground all year round as much as you can.
Natalie MacLean (08:34):
That’s a good way to explain it. Okay, pillar number five.
Anna Brittain (08:37):
Pillar number five. So we really try to emphasize social justice and diversity and inclusion. And again, this is an area where our industry can really lead. This industry has been pretty male dominated, pretty overwhelmingly white, other than the farm workers in the field. And so we’re trying to really think more about caring for teams, engaging teams, and the ROI of people, the return on investment of investing in people. And we talk a lot about that because the more people feel cared for and they feel safe and they feel like their opinion matters and their leadership wants to hear from them, the more dedicated they are to a successful business, the longer they stay and work for that business and build a knowledge set that’s incredibly valuable to that business versus places that have constant turnover. And you’re having to go through the hiring process and the retraining process and the knowledge that’s lost on an incredibly regular basis.
And so some of these issues of ROI or return on investment means we have to start thinking a little differently about things in terms of the longer term benefits of caring for people. Might there be some added upfront costs of a more living wage and benefits and opportunities for advancement and doing performance reviews and finding out where people want to go and giving them that opportunity and training and opportunities for continuing engagement. Those have some costs, but they lead to employees that are so much more invested in the success of a business.
And we also asked all of our members to set up green teams and help them understand what they can do to contribute to the sustainability of the business. And that’s another area that’s been shown to really attract employees and keep employees, employees working for businesses that care about more than just the bottom line that can tell that that business is invested in so much more than just how much money they’re making. And so yeah, we have our vineyard social justice standards are 20 pages long. There’s a lot to think about. So it’s a lot more than just that living wage and those benefits. It’s all of those other pieces I talked about. And we see that some of our champion members, everyone in the cellar has been there over 15 years. There’s not a lot of places that can say that.
Natalie MacLean (10:54):
No, and that’s so important, especially in the wine industry where the learning is there’s one vintage a year, so it’s not beer where you can make multiple batches during a year. The learning is one year, what happens in the winter, the spring, the summer, the fall. And so winemakers talk about a lifetime it might include 30 to 40 vintages if they’re lucky by the time they work on. So with your employees, I would imagine that retention is so important just because of the length of time it takes to build up the knowledge of that year long cycle.
Anna Brittain (11:30):
We have one member, Hyde Vineyards, and then another member of Pine Ridge Vineyards. At Hyde, they’re able to keep their employees year round, which is incredibly valuable. Not everyone can do that. But then at Pine Ridge, Gustavo, their vineyard manager, has talked about how he has been able to create enough of an incentive to bring back the same crew from Mexico every year. So he doesn’t have the year-round, but it’s the same people who’ve been coming back for 5, 7, 10 years. In both cases, they talk about the incredible benefits of the site, specific knowledge those people have built up. They know the issue in that block. They know what that block needs versus someone who’s just new to it every year, not that invested, don’t know the specific issues. And again, this all comes back to quality. And when we’re talking about premium wines, that’s so critical.
Natalie MacLean (12:19):
Yes. Alright, pillar number six.
Anna Brittain (12:22):
Pillar number six. So this all rolls into. Sometimes people even say why do you have this as a separate pillar because all of this contributes to climate action and regenerative agriculture. But we felt like it was really important to call that out. I mean, that’s sort of the ultimate umbrella over all of this is the climate action and regenerative agriculture. And there’s things you do with water and energy and waste that are contributing to climate action, but there’s then more things you can do. So then I’m as efficient as I can be. So now I’m putting in renewable energy, and how do I do that? Now I’m shifting to some electric vehicles, now I’m putting in EV chargers, and we help connect people with incentives and rebates to do a lot of these things. Now I’m lightening my glass weight. Now I’m changing my packaging because of what we were talking about earlier.
We’ve actually just revised our standards to make packaging and distribution an element of our climate action standards because we know that’s such a big piece of the carbon footprint. I mean, just small things like having nitrogen on site versus getting it delivered, then you’re reducing your delivery. So we give people credit if they have nitrogen on site versus getting deliveries and not idling. I mean, my God, pet peeve of mind, people just leaving vans sitting there idling and idling and idling. I mean, just all those things we have to think about. All of our actions, they all add up. So this really all rolls into that umbrella of really thinking whole systems. That’s my thing, whole systems. We have to be thinking really comprehensively to make change in the scale of the challenge that we’re up against.
Natalie MacLean (13:57):
Okay, so that’s great. Let’s move more to wine consumers now who want to visit wine regions. Of course, it’s always good to shop local, buy local, visit local. But is wine tourism a good thing if people are flying long distances and shipping back bottles home? What’s your take on that?
Anna Brittain (14:15):
Well, again, I think this is just where we need to be as conscientious as possible. I’m not going to tell people not to fly. One of my absolute favorite things is travel. You can buy offsets for your flights. Flights do have a big carbon footprint. So things like investing in other projects that are storing carbon that offset those flights, and then getting to that place and visiting. We have a list of participating members on our website. We have some itineraries for tastings to do. So visiting the wineries that are really invested in sustainability and climate action and are shipping lighter bottles in greener packaging back to your house. So all of those pieces. And tourism, I mean, it’s a huge element of so many economies and definitely of ours, of many wine regions. And so we do need it. And that special connection of sitting down with someone and talking about how this product was made and helping them think then about where did all my other products come from and how were all of those made I think is valuable. But yeah, it’s something I struggle with because I love travel. I love, love, love travel, but it does have a high impact in terms of our personal footprint. So we have to think carefully about it.
Natalie MacLean (15:27):
And other than, I mean, it’s really important to support these wineries who are trying to be more sustainable. Is there anything else we can do as wine consumers to advocate or support change in the wine industry?
Anna Brittain (15:40):
This is a litany of mine. I mean, use your purchasing power. We all have purchasing power and it sends signals. I know it sends signals because we’ve seen examples where. This is maybe something to talk about and something viewers might agree with. We haven’t done a great job of helping consumers quickly identify which, in this case, wines are the most sustainable, are the most dedicated wines. But we have seen examples where people do a necker, or they do a shelf talker, they do something like that to talk about those practices. And the sales go up 20% of that wine. So we know most people, I hope everyone listening and watching, want that information. They want to use that information to help guide their decisions. And I actually have a couple examples here. I’m going to share the bottles logo on the bottle. So here’s our Napa Green.
Natalie MacLean (16:30):
We’ll post a link to this in the show notes for those who are listening. But yeah, what’s on the bottle there? Describe the logo there.
Anna Brittain (16:36):
I love this one. I wanted to share it. It was our first example of a screen print of the logo, which I just think looks so, so beautiful. But this is our Napa Green Certified Winery logo. So we have a vineyard certification and a winery certification because some growers don’t have wineries, some wineries purchase grapes kind of thing. But this is an example of a member, Peter Paul, kind of hard to see there. That is Napa Green Winery certified. They’re making their wine in a certified winery and so they can put that logo on the label, and then someone can pick this up and pick up a comparable wine and say, well, these people are invested in sustainability. I’m going to go with this one if these are two kind of comparable wines. So I think that’s a really key piece is we need to do a better job of telling these stories and giving people really quick cues to see, oh okay, I got it. This one, they care. They’re invested. This one, I’m not sure I’m going to go with this one.
Natalie MacLean (17:26):
Sure. Why not? Because we’re often judging wine, purchasing wine, based on the label. So that seems like better criteria to me than a fluffy squirrel or an iguana. So unless it’s a sustainable squirrel [laughter]
Anna Brittain (17:37):
[laughter] Or a really heavy bottle.
Natalie MacLean (17:38):
That’s true. And so you also worked with Ontario and BC wineries. Was there anything different there that you did or observed with the efforts towards sustainability in either of those provinces?
Anna Brittain (17:51):
So in essence, I helped Sustainable Wine Growing British Columbia develop their certification program, establish that. And then in Ontario, they had a wine making program but they didn’t have a vineyard program. So I helped them expand their program from just winery sustainability, from vineyard through winery sustainability. And actually, we’re working on another grant right now to work with both of those regions to help them continue to advance their program. So we’ll see if that happens. I think one interesting thing I’ve noted there is I would’ve thought, oh water’s not as big of an issue. But actually even Canada has been having drought and water issues. I definitely don’t think I would’ve thought there would be the fire issues that we’re facing down here, but look at the fires that are happening.
So there’s so many parallels between all of our regions. I mean, Provence caught on fire a few years ago. So we’re all dealing with some pretty similar challenges. Labour challenges. It’s pretty consistent as I travel to these different wine regions what we’re up against. So there aren’t a lot of differences in the approaches.
Natalie MacLean (18:56):
Okay, cool. So you have a couple wines there.
Anna Brittain (18:59):
Natalie MacLean (18:59):
Let us see what they are and what they taste like and why you chose them.
Anna Brittain (19:04):
So I of course have two member wineries.
So I’ve got Domaine Carneros, their Taittinger bubbles. I’m going to open this now. I’ve already opened the other one, but you don’t want bubbles to be open for too long. And plus it’s a little early here, so bubbles is what you want to be starting your day with.
Breakfast of Champions.
Anna Brittain (19:23):
Yes. But Domaine Carneros, and this is also one, probably many people should have some access to. Domain Carneros pretty widely distributed. But they are incredible sustainability leaders. They’ve actually just put in a micro grid. So this is a whole kind of interconnected system of renewable energy of even being able to go off grid when there’s a power outage, which is something we’ve been dealing with here in this region. As we have fire fears, PGNE might turn off the power and having EV chargers it’s kind of a whole interconnected, kind of the pinnacle of the energy system that you can create for a business. They’re one of the first ones to do that and rule that online. And their certified winery. They’re just about done with the vineyard certification as well. And just really incredibly dedicated leaders. So I thought they were a great one to pick up and share. I brought a fun little antique Champagne glass
To try this one.
Natalie MacLean (20:23):
Was that winery started by Elaine somebody, the founder or the winemaker?
Anna Brittain (20:27)
I forget the name of the founder right now. Remi Cohen is their CEO, who’s so dedicated to sustainability and climate action.
Natalie MacLean (20:35):
Anna Brittain (20:35):
Cheers. Should I give it a try?
Natalie MacLean (20:37):
Anna Brittain (20:40):
That I don’t mind drinking early in the morning.
Natalie MacLean (20:43):
It’s refreshing. Is it?
Anna Brittain (20:44):
It really is lovely. Yeah. When it comes to Champagne, I don’t like it too dry. It’s funny, it’s almost like some of my friends say I have the really high-end taste and white and red wine. But when it comes to Champagne, I like my blanc de noir. I like a little bit more sweetness. So this really has that and is a really beautiful wine.
Natalie MacLean (21:04):
What would you pair with it? Free run something.
Anna Brittain (21:08):
I’m thinking about a really yummy treat I had the other day. This would be really good with I had an avocado toast with two poached eggs on it and that really yummy fresh tomato salad. I might want that right after this session.
Natalie MacLean (21:20):
Oh you are a trooper.
Anna Brittain (21:21):
That was really good.
Natalie MacLean (21:22):
You’re still in breakfast mode [laughter]. That’s great. Tell us about the second wine that you have there.
Anna Brittain (21:29):
So this is St. Supéry. Absolutely one of our champion members. This is their 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon. We actually did a whole logo update in 2021 when we redeveloped our vineyard program to focus on climate action and regenerative carbon farming. But bless them, they have both of our logos on their label. These are the older logos. But again, we need to be seeing more and more of this of our members putting that on the label and telling some new stories, not just the same old stories of family businesses and terroir, which is important, but telling the bigger stories. So this is their cab from 2019. More traditional glass for this one. And what’s great about them too is they really have a lot of vineyard land. They’ve got hundreds of acres,which not many people have. So when you’re really farming sustainably, that has a big impact when it’s on a bigger area of land. And again, this is one many people might be able to find in their marketplace. They have a fairly widespread distribution. And so of course can’t not have a classic Napa cab.
It’s one of the things we’re known for here.
Natalie MacLean (22:37):
And I think if you’re going with breakfast favorites maybe some bacon or hash browns or something.
Anna Brittain (22:42):
Well, I’m a vegetarian. You won’t be surprised to hear. But I am Irish. I love potatoes.
There you go.
So I would, yeah, let’s do some fried potatoes.
[laughter] That’s great. And some fakin’ bacon. I like my fakin’ bacon.
Natalie MacLean (22:54):
Is it classic Cabernet with the cassis and blackberry and some smoky toasty oak in there?
Anna Brittain (23:02):
Yeah. This is a very classic, beautiful cab. It’s not too heavy, too tannic, too much high alcohol. That direction that some of these cab have been going in. I like that a little more restrained, a little lighter alcohol. This has that. I don’t mind drinking this first thing in the morning,
Natalie MacLean (23:18):
You’re so flexible, Anna [laughter].
Anna Brittain (23:21):
So flexible [laughter]..
Natalie MacLean (23:22):
That’s great. Very adaptable.
Anna Brittain (23:24):
So yeah, those are two champion member wineries I thought would be great to share today.
Natalie MacLean (23:29):
That is fantastic. And we will put links to them and their wines in the show notes. And I love this. Of course, if you’re watching the video, you can find that as well on the website.
Anna Brittain (23:37):
Already double fisting at 8:30 in the morning.
Natalie MacLean (23:41):
Oh right [laughter]. Quite the way to start out the day. Yeah, you could probably balance those while you’re on your Peloton or something.
Alright, well the time has flown. Let’s go to the lightning round and feel free to keep sipping there. What is something that you strongly believe about wine that others might disagree with?
Anna Brittain (24:02):
I’m supposed to say this in lightning round. That’s kind of a tough one. I think maybe just I do. It’s contentious to say it and I said it earlier. I don’t know how much more we need of vineyards, of wineries. We need to be thinking about quality. We need to be thinking about the ways in which these grapes are grown and the wines are made rather than too much more, especially of the really low level, lower quality bulk wines. We need to be, I think it’s time to kind of double down on what we’ve got and how we’re producing it.
Natalie MacLean (24:34):
And for us as consumers to drink less but better. I mean, it’s good for our health as well. I believe in wine in moderation. I think it’s a great part of a meal with friends, family, and it does more for relaxation and stress than a lot of things. But yeah, drink better but less. Do you have a favourite childhood food that you would pair with wine now today?
Anna Brittain (24:56):
Favorite childhood food. I mean, I love pasta. I love lasagna.
Natalie MacLean (25:00):
Anna Brittain (25:02):
And I’ll definitely have those things with wine on a regular basis. And I’m actually going to dinner tomorrow night with friends at Rutherford Grill, famous local restaurant here.
Its a great one.
I’ve been going there since I was 15 years old. I’m not going to say how long that is. It’s a long time. And they have a fabulous veggie burger that I’ve been eating for a very long time. So I’ll be having that again tomorrow night.
Natalie MacLean (25:25):
And would you pair that with a Cabernet? What do you usually have with it?
Anna Brittain (25:27):
I think I’m actually going to bring this to pre cab tomorrow night for my friend’s birthday, so there you go.
Natalie MacLean (25:32):
Excellent. All right. Do you have a favourite wine book?
Anna Brittain (25:35):
Favorite wine book? Well, I did. I brought my props here today. I was so good.
Natalie MacLean (25:39):
Did your homework.
Anna Brittain (25:40):
I thought I would share True to Our Roots from Paul Dolan. I don’t know how many people have heard of Paul Dolan, but he just passed away. So I thought it was fitting to share this book. And he’s just always, always was an incredible leader in regenerative agriculture. This is about fermenting a business revolution. He wrote this 20 years ago. That is still what we’re working on today. So I mean, everything in this book still relevant to all the work that Napa Green is doing. So in his memory, I thought I would share that book.
Natalie MacLean (26:09):
Absolutely. And he was winemaker where? Which winery?
Anna Brittain (26:12):
He originally worked at Fetzer and then Mendocino Wine Company, and then Truett Hurst. But everywhere he was working on organic and biodynamic and regenerative farming.
Natalie MacLean (26:21):
We’ll link to that as well. Is there a useful wine gadget that you’ve come across?
Anna Brittain (26:26):
Well, I was thinking about this one, and I’m just going to be a little humorous here and say that my favourite wine gadget is my liver.
It’s a gift that keeps on giving, and it’s with me always [laughter].
Natalie MacLean (26:38):
Speaking of recycling [laughter].. You’re keeping the…
Anna Brittain (26:44):
Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Natalie MacLean (26:47):
If you could share a bottle of wine with any person outside the wine world, who would that be?
Anna Brittain (26:51):
I was thinking about this and I was thinking how much I would love to sit down and have a glass of wine with Brené Brown.
She talks so much about vulnerability and really about opening up, being honest, digging deep. And I think that so much of the challenges around being willing to say there’s a climate crisis and tackle that climate crisis comes down to vulnerability, comes down to some discomfort, and being willing to walk through that discomfort. And so I would love to have a conversation with her about her thoughts on her work and how that relates to the behavioural science of doing this work of climate action.
Natalie MacLean (27:28):
Yeah, I’m a big fan of hers, too. In fact, I quote her in my latest book. I’m with you on that. Yeah, absolutely. Then finally, if you could put up a billboard in downtown San Francisco – maybe you wouldn’t; maybe that wouldn’t be environmental – but if you could, what would it say?
Anna Brittain (27:43):
Well, we have a phrase we use. So I think I’d start with something like Take Climate Action Now. But we say, if not here, where? If not now, when? We’ve got to do this where we are and we have to do it right now. And certainly for us as folks in the Napa Valley, Napa County making arguably the premier agricultural product in one of the absolute premier regions. If not here, where? And if not now, when? I mean, this region has to be a leader and it has to take urgent action, but that goes for all of us wherever we are. So that’s what I would put up there.
Natalie MacLean (28:21):
Amen. As wine consumers and wine producers, as we wrap up our conversation, is there anything that we haven’t covered that you wanted to mention, Anna?
Anna Brittain (28:29):
I don’t think so. We managed to go through all six pillars. And two wines. So I think we’ve covered a lot of ground and I hope that everyone’s really interested in this conversation and would like to learn more about Napa Green and about sustainable wine growing.
Natalie MacLean (28:43):
Absolutely. It’s been fascinating. And where can people find you and Napa Green online?
Anna Brittain (28:48):
It’s NapaGreen.org. The .org is important because we’re a nonprofit. And then we have RiseGeen.org as well, which is our symposium. So if you’re interested in the symposium, but you can always find that on Napa Green as well, and you can find our participating members and more about our programs and reach out anytime.
Natalie MacLean (29:07):
Excellent, Anna. Well, I’m going to say goodbye. It’s been wonderful chatting with you. Thank you for sharing your time with us. It was fascinating. This has really opened my eyes. Your explanations of that whole systematic whole production approach is really excellent. So thank you for sharing that with us.
Anna Brittain (29:25):
Wonderful. Thank you for having me. Cheers.
I’ll have a little more bubbles.
Natalie MacLean (29:28):
There you go.
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our chat with Anna. Here are my takeaways. Number one, Anna has some concrete steps for how we as wine consumers can support environmental change in the wine industry. The need is urgent, and we have the purchasing power. We vote with our dollars, and they send strong signals to the industry to advocate for this change. Number two, I found her concept of proactive farming as it relates to growing vines for wines absolutely fascinating. And number three, she also has an interesting take on wine tourism’s impact on the environment.
In the show notes, you’ll find the full transcript of my conversation with Anna, links to her website, the video versions of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube live, and where you can order my book online now no matter where you live. That’s all in the show notes nataliemaclean.com/259. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question, or if you’ve read my book or are in the process of reading it at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you.
If you missed episode 17, go back and take a listen. I talk about organic and biodynamic wines with rockstar winemaker Thomas Bachelder. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Thomas Bachelder (30:56):
Organics and biodynamics are the same from an organic viticulture point of view and from a wine making point of view. You can use mine minerals like sulfur and copper. Put them into water and spray, and they help protect any rainfall to get washed right out. Now whether you’re in organics or biodynamics, the copper is a metal. It’s a heavy metal and you can eventually get toxicity in your soil. So even with organics and biodynamics, we are watching copper like a hawk. We have virgin soils over here compared to Burgundy. So I learned from the Burgundians, they actually look at the load they’re putting on a vineyard every year and they try to skip treatments. Imagine that you’re organic, using organic materials, and you’re trying to skip treatments. It’s like not taking your full antibiotic dose when you’ve been sick, but we do that to try to always use the least interventional land we can.
Natalie MacLean (32:00):
If you like this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone who’d be interested in the wines, tips, and stories we shared. You won’t want to miss next week when we chat with Luke Whittall, author of the Sipster’s Pocket Guide to the 50 Must Dry Wines in both BC and Ontario. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a wine in a lightweight bottle, or even better a can or a box.
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full bodied bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.